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Back to the basics – understanding back pain

Are you one of the eight in 10 people who has experienced back pain at some point in your life?Has your pain interfered with your work or kept you from doing the things your enjoy?Did you know that al...


Dr. Jerry Singh
Dr. Jerry Singh

Are you one of the eight in 10 people who has experienced back pain at some point in your life?

Has your pain interfered with your work or kept you from doing the things your enjoy?

Did you know that although back pain will sometimes go away on its own, there is in fact an 80 per cent chance that it will recur?

Truckers are especially prone to back problems because of the long hours they spend sitting and their constant exposure to bouncing and vibration while on the road.

Heavy, repetitive or awkward lifting will also put added stress on your back, especially if done improperly or following a period of prolonged sitting.

Ever wonder what is actually causing all that pain?

Your spinal highway

Your spine is made up of 24 small bones called vertebrae and two larger bones at the bottom called the sacrum and coccyx (tailbone).

Between each of the vertebrae there are discs.

These discs work as shock absorbers in your spine.

Your spine has two important functions – to support your body weight, and to protect your spinal cord.

Your spinal cord is the central highway of your nervous system.

It is a two-way highway running from your brain to the bottom of your spine.

The spinal cord transports messages from the body to your brain (such as a pain signal from your foot when you step on a nail).

As well as from your brain to your body (your brain tells your muscles to lift your foot off the nail).

When you step on a nail you obviously need to be able to lift your foot off very quickly.

Luckily the spinal cord is a very high-speed highway.

Just like your typical highway has lots of “on” and “off” ramps, so does your spinal highway.

These are called spinal nerves. These nerves exit your spinal cord through little openings between the adjacent spinal bones.

One spinal nerve exits from the left and one from the right at each of the 24 levels.

These spinal nerves branch off into smaller and smaller nerves that transport information to and from every organ, muscle, tissue and cell of your body.

Just like proper wheel alignment is essential for your truck to function properly, proper alignment of all the bones of your spine is essential for your body to function properly.

Everyday stresses, as well as injuries and accidents can cause minor misalignments in your spine.

These misalignments can result in pain by putting pressure on the nerves, joints and discs or by altering the pull of the muscles.

Why so much pain?

Once you experience back pain, it is important to determine the exact source of the pain before it can be treated properly.

One common source of back pain is misalignment of the joints of the spine.

The spinal bones are connected to one another by way of joints (like hinges on a door).

These joints (hinges) allow each of the 24 spinal bones to move, making it possible for you to bend and twist.

If these joints are not moving properly it can lead to swelling, irritation of the nearby nerves, abnormal motion and tension in the muscles because they become overworked.

Imagine opening and closing a door that is slightly off its hinges. It would definitely take a lot more strength to move it (more muscle).

It would also tend to grind and move abnormally.

Over time the hinges would start to wear down and the problem would get worse and worse.

The same is true for the joints in your back.

Another source of back pain is the discs. The discs serve as shock absorbers and are located between each of the spinal bones.

The discs have a fibrous outer layer that holds a jelly like material inside (imagine a jelly donut!).

When injured or exposed to constant stress, these discs can bulge or herniate (squeeze your donut and see the jelly ooze out).

This bulging of the disc leads to pressure on the delicate nerves nearby.

This slight pressure on the nerve can results in back pain which will often spread into the leg and foot.

Disc injuries are very painful and can become serious problems if not treated properly.

Over time uncorrected joint and disc problems can lead to tearing, drying out, thinning and even collapsing of the disc.

Muscles are another common cause of back pain. Tight, overworked, malfunctioning or weak muscles can lead to back pain.

Muscles are also very important because they help protect the discs and joints of your back.

If the muscles are not strong and healthy, the discs and joints are more likely to become injured.

Because truckers sit for a large part of the day without a whole lot of movement they rely on special postural muscles to support their spine.

If these muscles are not healthy, they will not be able to support your spine for long periods of time.

As these postural muscles grow tired, the pressure on the nerves, joints and discs starts to increase.

This is one of the reasons why you may experience back pain when you first get up after sitting for a long period of time.

There are other less common and serious conditions that can cause back pain.

These include such things as bone fractures, cancer, certain bone diseases and circulation problems.

Also certain organs such as the kidney can refer pain to the back.

Getting ‘back on track’

So now you know that you are not alone in your suffering, and you understand the structure and function of your spine and the possible sources of your back pain.

All of that’s great, but all you probably really what to know is how to get out of pain and better yet, how to stay pain-free.

Next month, we’ll help you get “back on track.”

– Dr. Jerry Singh, B. Kin., D.C., runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 888 252-7327, or e-mail singhjerry@hotmail.com.


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Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.
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